All Star Dad

“All Star Dad.” I saw it upon his t shirt. He was just like any other 40 something at the gym.  Hopefully his children got him that t-shirt. Or, maybe he thinks of himself as an all star dad. As Father’s Day approached, I came away asking: “Am I an all star dad?” I guess it depends on who you ask.

If not, what do I need to do make the all star team? What makes an all star dad? There are those of us who want and need guidance on how to be an “All Star Dad.” Our passage today gives us some guidance on this matter.

This instruction comes towards the end of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The first three chapters explain the blessings that we have in Christ such as redemption by His blood, regeneration by the Spirit and predestination by His grace. The last three chapters tell us how to live in light of God’s blessings. This instruction comes right after Paul tells us of how wives and husbands ought to operate with mutual love and mutual respect. Now, he turns to the subject of how children and parents ought to treat each other.

Ephesians 6:1: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise),  that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” We parents like that part! We expect it. We remind our kids of it. But what about verse four? “…fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Today, I want to focus on the actions and responsibilities of fathers. Similar words are used in Colossians 3:21 says: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart.” This passage speaks to every person who is called to be a mentor to others.

A lot can be said of how we should relate to kids and grandkids. The place of Christian teaching holds center stage in the act of mentoring and parenting. We have a responsibility to the next generation.

It is easy for parents to provoke their children.  If not careful, we can see our children as enlisted personnel in the army of your home.  Maybe you’re a dad that feels that kids must be given orders and must be reminded of them.  But there is room for parents to treat their children in a considerate way; to help them understand why there are rules and that things are done out of love, guidance and discipline.

Robert Duvall and Timothy O’Keefe star in the 1979 film, “The Great Santini.”  The film tells the story of a military officer Lt. Colonel “Bull” Meechum, whose success as a pilot contrasts with his failures as a husband and father. The setting is in 1962 before the US gets heavily involved in the Vietnam War. Bull’s son Ben is a basketball star. On the court at school, he is a dominating player. But when he plays pickup with his dad in the family driveway at home, his father won’t let him win.  He yells at him and humiliates him in an effort to “make him a man.”   Their relationship continues to suffer as Meechum never tries to get to know his son.  Their relationship is still fragile when the Great Santini flies one last mission from which he does not return.  It is a lesson in redeeming the time before it is too late.

In contrast, God gives us many opportunities to positively affect the lives of others.  We must make the most of those opportunities.  As men, we must take seriously the calling to be a mentor to those God has placed around us.  I had a friend and church member in Kansas who came to visit me at my home in Kansas.  I had a large black Labrador Retriever named Mac.  Mac was great!  Over 100 pounds of muscle!  He loved to jump on you!  He loved attention.  As Mac was jumping on my guest, vying for his attention, my friend looked up at me and said something like: “Dogs are wonderful creatures to have, if they are trained.  If you don’t train them, they’re just a nuisance!”  I started training Mac after that.  J  Sons and daughters, are you trainable?  Are you willing to listen to those that would take interest in your life?

God spoke to the two angels that visited Abraham in Genesis 18:19, telling of the patriarch’s importance and responsibility: “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”  How do we direct our children and our grand children in a way that they will receive the God’s word?  It is challenging to make the time to do that; to prioritize the spiritual lives of others, especially if we’re trying to keep our own afloat.

I think a proactive teacher and mentor in the lives of our kids is something that presents a challenge for men.  We have to learn it.  We are disadvantaged in comparison to the ladies around us.  We can be overwhelmed at the responsibilities of being a father or a grandfather.  Anyone can parent, but few do it well.

What does it take to be an “All Star Dad”? If we were to create a list compiled by children, they might say:

  • A dad who spends time with me;
  • A dad who is able to laugh and joke around;
  • A father who teaches me things.
  • A Dad who loves Mom;
  • A Dad who buys me things; (provides, not spoils).

What would you add to that list? The following are critical, especially in this day and age.

A dad that is concerned for my soul; One who prays and witnesses to those around him, not as if he is trying to sell something, but a father who speaks of God and bears witness of His mercy and grace. What has God done in your life!? Do you speak about it?

A dad who models Jesus Christ. A dad who trusts God! We must model the Christian faith. Recently, I asked one of our church members, Ollie Smith, what makes an “All Star Dad.” He told me: “Being a good example. Don’t use bad language, especially in front of the kids.” I thought, “He’s right!” If you want your children or grandchildren to act a certain way, you have to model it for them.

Jack Graham, author of Man of God: Essential Priorities for Everyman’s Life, refers to a survey that indicated:

“When both Dad and Mom take their children to church, 76 percent of those children become active in their faith. When Dad alone takes the children to church, that percentage drops to 55 percent. But when Dad drops out and leaves Mom to take the children to church alone, only 15 percent of those children remain active in their faith. And if neither parent goes to church with the kids, only 9 percent of those kids become active Christians in their church.”[1]

But let us not get the impression that it is just about attending church. Dads and Granddads, you must also bring church into the home. Do your kids and grandkids see you crack your Bible? Have they ever heard about your faith? Proverbs 22:6 tells us: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

A dad who is not afraid to share the lessons that the Lord has shown him, from His word and/or from experience. We cannot put a price tag on the opportunities that we have to make a difference in the lives of others. Moses instructed the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:7: “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

What else?  I encourage you to go online and read JT Waresak’s “Ten Traits of Highly Effective Dads.”[2]  The following are great additions by Waresak:

  • If married, they uphold their wives as their number one friend and co-worker in life. As someone once said, “the best way to love me is to love my mother.”
  •  They practice the discipline of meekness. Good dads are gentle and approachable.
  •  They make their children feel special and believe in them. The former head basketball coach at NC State, Jim Volvano, once said: “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” Great dads believe in their kids and let them know that they are special.
  • Mercy and grace are a part of their households. They know the value of forgiveness and give it, as well as ask for it.

For some, the level of impact we make on those around us can go undetected for years.  For others, it comes out in the strangest of ways.  The point is we must never give up.  Every person is important; every opportunity is valuable.

A grown man awaiting surgery in the hospital was talking with his father.  “Dad,” he said, “I sure hope I can be home for Father’s Day.  I felt awful years ago when I was 10, because I never gave you a gift that year.”

The father replied, “Mark, I remember that Saturday before Father’s Day.  I saw you in the store.  I watched as you picked up the cigars and stuffed them in your pocket.  I knew you had no money, and I was sad because I thought you were going to run out of the store without paying.  But as soon as you hid the cigars, you pulled them out and put them back.

When you stayed out playing all the next day because you had no present, you probably thought I was hurt.  You’re wrong.  When you put the cigars back and decided not to break the law, Mark, you gave me the best present I ever received.”  Sometimes presents are not those things you buy, but actions and behaviors that say: “I’ve not lived nor taught in vain.”

[1] Jack Graham, A Man of God: Essential Priorities for Every Man’s Life. (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 163.

[2] Available at www.drjamesdobson.org.

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